My Child, the Arts, and School

Arts Education Is a Gateway to Your Child’s Future: High School

Learn how to support your child in the arts at school


Art is Smart

Bill Clinton

"I don’t think I would have become President if it had not been for school music."
President Bill Clinton

Your high schooler is becoming independent and will leave home all too soon. These days, he’s trying to figure out who he is as an individual while also fitting into the larger community. The prospect of playing a role in this community entails worrying about what he’s interested in, what he’s good at, how to make a living, plus what the meaning of life is in general. Very big, very difficult issues. No wonder kids are moody, friendly, hostile, dependent, independent, angry; sometimes, it seems, all at the same time.

Research finds that the arts can be a vital tool for success in high school because they provide positive, enjoyable, creative pathways for teenagers to express their feelings and ideas. This is particularly important at an age when kids are worried about the future and feeling conflicted about many intractable issues, particularly dependence/independence.

Given that, here’s why arts education matters, especially in high school:

  • The arts help teens enjoy—and stay in—school. Arts keep students engaged in school life. Students can take the skills learned from their arts experiences — discipline, patience, problem-solving—and apply them throughout their lives.
  • Taking classes in the arts helps teens graduate on time. For example, a recent report from the Center for Arts Education found that New York City high schools with the most access to—and support for — arts education have the city’s highest graduation rates.
  • Arts education can be a gateway to the future. Arts-related businesses, especially in urban areas, provide jobs in creative fields ranging from advertising and video game design to fashion and theater management. The creative sector needs more than just artists, too— it needs accountants, marketers, computer technicians, lawyers, and many others.
  • The arts can help in applying to college. The College Board has found that students who take classes in the arts for four years in high school scored substantially higher on the SATs than students with six months or less training in the arts.

In addition, you have the power to help your teen get the most out of his/her arts education. So, if your child wants to attend a high school with a committed arts program, here are some ways you can help:

Research possible high schools by…

  • Calling your local Department of Education to see if any high schools offer a concentration in the arts.
  • Attending school tours and open houses to see schools and meet the faculty. Look for displays of student artwork and study the schedule of annual events. Does the school take pride in its students’ work and exhibit it?

Ask high school representatives…

  • What art courses does the school offer? How many, what types, and how often?
  • Does the school have a budget for art supplies and teaching materials?
  • Does the school partner with local arts groups? If so, with which arts? How many hours of instruction do they provide?
  • What afterschool arts activities are offered?
  • Are there regularly-scheduled field trips to concerts, plays, dance programs, or art exhibitions?

Make your voice heard about the importance of the arts. In the words of Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, “The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem-solvers who are confident and able to think creatively.”


    Editors & Producers

    Lisa Resnick
    Content Editor

    Tiffany Bryant
    Assistant Manager, Audience Enrichment

    Further Information

    To learn more about arts education for yourself or to help persuade school administrators:

    Catterall, James S. The Arts and the Transfer of Learning.
    An overview of the Critical Links report argues for more research about the benefits of arts learning, especially in affective areas (such as motivation and engagement) as well as transfer of skills, particularly when learning is understood as “situational, interactive, and extremely complex.”

    Davis, Jessica Hoffmann. Why Our Schools Need the Arts. New York: Columbia Teachers College, 2007.
    The arts provide unique opportunities for learning and development because they involve tangible products and ambiguity, focus on emotion and process, and foster connection to others.

    Deasy, Richard, ed. Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development. Washington, D.C.: Arts Education Partnership, 2002.
    A compilation summarizing and discussing 62 research studies that examine the effects of arts learning on students' social and academic skills.

    Horn, Jeanette Horn. “An Exploration into the Writing of Original Scripts by Inner-City High School Drama Students,” Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic Achievement and Social Development, edited by Richard Deasy. Washington, D.C.: Arts Education Partnership, 2002.
    A report on how student attendance and interest in the arts improved after an ethnically-diverse student group collaborated on a theater project.

    The Center for Arts Education

    CAE Logo

    Adapted from original content produced by the Center for Arts Education (CAE) , a nonprofit organization which promotes arts education in New York City public schools.

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